To say that I was excited to be strolling the 12th Anniversary of the Food & Drink Fest was a huge understatement. At the time, I was both hungry and extremely thirsty. Which, according to the returning visitors I talked to, was perfect. I soon found out that they were right! As such, I grabbed 20 sample tickets ($20) — most of the food sample were 4 or 5 tickets while the drinks were usually a couple. I found this to be pretty perfect.
Walking into Food & Drink Fest was an experience in itself. It’s basically sensory overload.
As you reach the floor, you’re greeted by the scent of delicious food. You can’t quite put your finger on exactly what delectable morsels you’re smelling, but it certainly makes you quicken your pace to find out. You then find yourself in the middle of an entire arena floor filled with hundreds of exhibitors; many showcasing their delicious offerings to the crowds that surround them.
You have the urge to sample right away, but you also want to see what the place has to offer first. Definitely a conundrum most attendees will face. My approach — grab a beer or wine sample and embark on a tour.
And, boy was it ever was packed. Such a cool scene. Beer, wine and delicious food make for one friendly crowd. There were points where it was shoulder to shoulder, but the sample lines moved quickly. Above the din of the cavernous First Ontario Centre was the sound of a band taking the stage. Friday night, it was Brothers Du Monde playing an array of catchy and familiar tunes. A really cool complement to the atmosphere.
Although this almost goes against my better judgement, I will attempt to narrow this down to the top five booths that I visited from this past weekend. Given the sheer quantity of exhibitors and my average-human sized stomach, it’s safe to say I wasn’t able to get to all of them. This was really a can’t-miss event — there’s definitely something for every palate.That being said, here’s my top 5.
My ultra-subjective Top 5 Tastes of the 2017 Food & Drink Fest:
Based in Blythe, a small burgh north of London, these guys were great to talk to. Nice to see them investing in a small town, so that earns them points right there. I sampled their Abbey Braggot brew — lots of flavour with a hint of honey. A real craft beer, but in the smaller sampler glasses even the casual beer drinker would like it.
- The Other Bird (Two Black Sheep)
With a pretty well-known lineup of restaurants in the region, you know this one will be solid. I enjoyed a couple samples from here. First was the Korean Fried Chicken; this was really good but quite spicy. Good thing I had my drink sample topped up before opting in for this one. Second was the bacon wrapped bacon. You really don’t need to say much more than ‘bacon wrapped bacon’. Enough said.
I sampled the Butternut Squash Ravioli. Wow. This was really good. Most locals here in Hamilton will tell you how delicious The Aberdeen Tavern is — whether that’s from first-hand experience or relaying a third-party testimonial. And the fact this isn’t my number one selection shows just how deep the talent pool is here in Hamilton.
- Jack & Lois
Delicious, mouth-watering Pigasus Meatballs. So good and so filling. If you’re feeling a little puckish, this is definitely the place you’ll need to try if you want something awesome and hearty. Working the meatball magic was James Thomas of Jack & Lois fame. This definitely set my expectations high and he delivered.
This booth was about the brisket. It’s hard to top brisket; this list proves it. Yes, I’d say I’m a meat n’ potatoes kinda guy, but this was so tender and delicious. The team here talked about doing pop-up events at some pretty unique locations — which sounded like really fun events. And based on my brisket sample, no matter how obscure the pop-up location is, it could definitely draw a crowd.
There you have it. A list that really doesn’t do this event justice. But, nonetheless, my top 5 pit stops from this past weekend.
Whether you’re a food, restaurant, wine, or craft beer enthusiast, or simply looking for a casual stroll at a super cool HamOnt event, your taste buds will thank you for stopping in at this one.
Until next year,
Chris Sanislo is a freelance copywriter with a passion for Hamilton. He has over 15 years of experience in the Canadian Advertising industry. Chris crafts his copy from downtown Hamilton’s CoMotion On King, where he serves as the in-house blogger.
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